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Three suspects charged in beating of Texas gay man


RENO, Lamar County, Texas — The Lamar County District Attorney’s office told LGBTQ Nation on Wednesday that three men have been arrested and charged in the malicious attack on 26-year-old Burke Burnett last weekend in Reno, Texas.

Burnett was at a private party at about 1 a.m. Sunday when four men suddenly attacked him, stabbing him at least twice with a broken beer bottle before throwing him onto a lit burn barrel while yelling homophobic epithets.

From left: Daniel Martin, James Laster, and Micky Joe Smith. (Image via KDAF-TV)

A spokesperson for the District Attorney said that Micky Joe Smith, 25, Daniel Martin, 33, and James “Tray” Mitchell Laster III, 31, all face charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. The charges are second-degree felonies, punishable by up 20 years in prison.

The Lamar County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that Martin and Laster are each being held on $250,000 bond, a Sheriff’s spokesman said that no bond has been set for Smith, who was taken into custody earlier Wednesday.

Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young told reporters that it will be up to a county grand jury to decide whether the three suspects are prosecuted with the state’s hate crime enhancement. Under Texas statues, the enhancement could result in the charges being bumped up from second-degree felonies to first-degree felonies — punishable by five to 99 years in prison.

“We’re in the process of receiving all the information as a result of the investigation,” said Young, who declined to further discuss the status of the ongoing investigation.

“We will present all that information to the grand jury, including all the information as to whether it’s a hate crime or not. The grand jury will make a determination whether it [a hate crime] is or isn’t part of the charge. If their actions of committing the aggravated assault are based on race or sexual orientation or whatever it may be, the grand jury can choose to enhance the offense up a level,” he added.

Burnett said it took 30 stitches to close stab wounds to his back and forearm, as well as a cut above his left eye. He also sustained second-degree burns and severe bruises.

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